The Governor has issued a stay of execution for the Meadowlands. The stay will last until Local 173 votes or May 12, whichever comes first. Does this mean the Meadowlands will survive? There is no guarantee of that; the outcome is uncertain. The union may still refuse to vote on Jeff Gural's proposal or they may decide to vote on the proposal and turn it down.
Of the whole process, the part that upsets me is the fact Local 173 voted not to vote. What kind of move is that? If you think the proposal is that outrageous, then vote on the proposal and turn it down. What are they, a bunch of children covering their ears, closing their eyes, screaming "I can't hear you"? When the fate of your jobs and others are at stake, you need to act like adults and treat 'best and final' offers as what they are and let your membership vote on them in a straight up and down vote.
I was not there, but something about Thursday night fails the smell test. The fact only one third of their membership showed up doesn't concern me; after all, how many people vote in Presidential elections? If a mutuel clerk decides they can't bother showing up to vote, then they can't complain about the outcome. What bothers me is why were the state police called in to restore order at the meeting? Clearly for that to happen, there was no overwhelming sentiment to vote not to vote. Was this the union or local's leadership imposing their will on the rank and file? Did a group of dissidents take control of the meeting in a display of mob rule? Who knows?
I do believe there are other factors at work which kept the local from voting. Perhaps it was the fear that a 20% pay cut, if approved becomes the de facto starting point for negotiations at Monmouth Park. Perhaps, it was sending a pro-union message to Governor Christie? Maybe it was a game of chicken, hoping to get that one last concession from Jeff Gural despite the fact he offered what was his 'best and final' offer. Maybe there were internal politics at play. We will never know for sure. What I do know is the offer deserves an up or down vote by the rank and file and any steps to keep their own membership from voting on their own futures is despicable and a dereliction of responsibility.
Let Local 173 vote in a straight up or down vote and let the chips lie where they fall. If they vote for the contract; great. If not, I can understand and accept their decision. I don't think any of us would be happy to take a 20% pay cut, be it a part time or full time job. It is not the union member's responsibility to worry about what would happen to other people's jobs or an industry if they vote one way or the other. It is up to the leadership to look out for their member's best interests and represent them and it is up for the individual member to vote in their own best interest.
Would I be disappointed if the local votes no? Sure I would, but it wouldn't be their fault that the Meadowlands closed. Unfortunately, if the Meadowlands is forced to close, there is plenty of blame to be had for putting the industry in a position where one union controls the future of the Meadowlands.
Governor Christie is not to blame for divesting the state from supporting horse racing. Governor Christie and Senate President Sweeney are not to blame for refusing to put a casino in the Meadowlands (though state tax payers may have an issue with them). It is not the fault of the public who has rejected harness racing.
Blame for the lack of public interest in harness racing lies with a bunch of people. The track operators who refused to reinvent the industry once it's gambling monopoly was threatened and continued to milk their customers with high takeout rates. Every time a chemist (trainer) injected a horse put a knife in the back of harness racing. Every time a driver took a bribe or fixed a race put a knife in the back of harness racing.. Everytime a trainer played games to make sure their horse didn't move up or down put a knife in the back of harness racing. Every time a racing commission compromised or didn't do their duty against a wrong doer hurt harness racing. Every horse that broke a quarter mile before a race where the money was not refunded turned people away. Every owner that closed their eyes to wrong doing shares the blame. Every horsemen's group that wanted to race too long at a track and burned the public out has to share in the blame as does diluting the handle by racing twenty tracks at one.
Local 173 may be the ones that put the Meadowlands out of business, but years of looking out for number one or neglect put us in this position.